The Mississippi High School Activities Association convened for more than five hours Thursday to discuss rules and procedures for resuming athletics.
In an announcement, the 15-member MHSAA Executive Committee ruled that practices, workouts, skill development, weightlifting and conditioning can take place for member schools starting June 1. Games and competition between schools — members or not — will remain prohibited until the fall. All activities have been suspended since March 16 in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Team activities will be considered voluntary, and no student-athlete can be punished for not participating due to personal or medical reasons, or parental restriction.
“Our highest priority is and always will be the safety, health and welfare of Mississippi’s students, educators and communities,” MHSAA Executive Director Don Hinton said in a release. “We will continue to assess new information and develop plans for the upcoming 2020-21 fall sports and activities seasons. Weekly updates will be provided to help our member schools as we look forward to the new school year of sports and activities.”
Schools must follow national, state and local recommendations regarding the coronavirus, as well as the MHSAA’s own return to activities guidelines posted on its website.
The guidelines include a mandatory 14-day, re-acclimation period for student-athletes to return to physical shape. Through the first seven days, practices are limited to one per day and cannot exceed two hours, and intensity should be at 50%. Double practices can begin on Day 7 but cannot be on consecutive days nor stretch beyond three total hours, and those must include a minimum of three hours in between. The intensity level of the second week can be increased to 75% with a buildup to full intensity on the final day. Weight room sessions are also limited to three times per week.
The MHSAA also recommends conducting workouts or practices outside — maintaining 6 feet between participants — and highly encourages virtual gatherings. Schools must provide Personal Prevention Equipment like gloves and masks, as well as hand sanitizer and cleaning supplies. Student-athletes are highly encouraged to use their own exercise equipment and other items like water bottles and towels, and sharing of such items is prohibited. Drills and exercises that don’t require shared equipment is also recommended.
The full return to activity guidelines, including COVID-19 screening and cleaning procedures, can be read here.